Retiring teachers’ final year cut short


VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. That was sad news for students and teachers across Illinois, but especially for the ones who aren’t coming back and did not get to say goodbye.

“Before this announcement from Governor Pritzker, I had my hopes up. But now it’s hard,” says elementary teacher Gail Biggerstaff.

Teachers all over the state likely feel the same way.

“Now if I could go back, I think I’d ask for one more year to just go out the way I wanted to go out, but it is what it is,” says elementary teacher Sandy Moses.

Especially for the ones who planned to retire this year. Combined, Biggerstaff and Moses have nearly 70 years of experience when it comes to shaping young minds.

The two teach in different districts about a 35 minute drive apart, but have quite a bit in common. In fact, both have students whose parents they also taught. Biggerstaff works at Salt Fork North in Catlin, and Moses at Shiloh Elementary in Hume.

“Even though I was excited to retire and have a little more time to myself, I certainly never dreamed I would go out this way,” says Biggerstaff. “We really didn’t even get to say goodbye at all. It was just all of a sudden…COVID-19 has affected Illinois and here we go.”

That is a hard pill to swallow when you have spent your entire career in one place.

“For teachers, I know that retirement is a tough decision, and you never really want to leave the classroom. For 35 years, I’ve defined myself completely as a teacher…as a parent…a single parent…a daughter, but the teacher has always been the number one definition that I’ve carried,” says Moses.

“I carry it with me 24 hours a day, everyday, all summer long, all school year. And to let go of that when I don’t get to have those moments in the classroom is just really hard. It’s heartbreaking.”

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